What Is Omnichannel Retail?
The current business landscape is dominated by digital. Customer preferences and spending patterns, as well as shopping habits are on the verge of being entirely changed due to the presence of multiple purchase channels. Whereas once we had to wait for the weekend to go on a shopping spree, today we are able to order that coveted item from the comfort of our smartphones.
As customers demand more from businesses, focusing on individual retail channels is no longer a viable option. In order to provide consumers with a seamless shopping experience, businesses are increasingly adopting an Omnichannel approach to retail.
Omnichannel Retail Definition
Omnichannel retail is defined as “the ability to deliver a seamless and consistent shopping experience across channels, while keep in mind the devices that consumers are using to interact with your business.”
Importance of Omnichannel Retailing
As is clear from the above, the Omnichannel approach to retailing involves creating a seamless shopping experience for consumers by efficiently connecting all available channels. The Omnichannel marketing approach is becoming ever more important considering the preferences of today’s consumers.
A consumer today is literally bombarded with options and choices, so much so that the very presence of so much to choose from makes the process of decision making ever more difficult. In this case the differentiating factor has to come from the level of ease and shopping experience provided to the consumers. This is exactly where the Omnichannel approach scores over other retail strategies. By taking a user-centric stance the Omnichannel concept approaches retailing from the consumers’ point of view.
Using Omnichannel retailing businesses can take advantage of centralized data sets to remain cognizant of customer requirements. Most customers today expect stores – both online and offline – to stock what they need, when they need it. Anything less is not expected. With a large number of sales originating online and culminating offline, an Omnichannel retailing strategy can help businesses maintain customer satisfaction levels, refine their inventory management process, and boost sales.
Omnichannel Retail Vs. Multichannel Retail
It is important to distinguish between Omnichannel and Multichannel retail strategies at this juncture. Even though both focus on managing retail activity across multiple channels, the difference between them is subtle but important. The following are three important factors based on which the two approaches can be distinguished:
Channel vs. Customer
Omnichannel retail takes a customer-centric approach to retailing by gearing the retail experience as per customer requirements. On the other hand, the Multichannel approach is more concerned with the efficient management of the different channels themselves.
Consistency vs. Engagement
While Multichannel is more concerned about increasing customer engagement across different retail channels, Omnichannel retail focuses more on consistency of service and improved customer experience by integrating all available channels.
Effort vs. Effortless
Multichannel retail actually results in increasing customer efforts by offering the options of multiple channels; the goal of Omnichannel retail is to reduce the effort involved by providing the customers exactly what they need through the channel most convenient to them.
Omnichannel Retail Trends
As more and more businesses adopt the Omnichannel route to retail, several noticeable developments are beginning to emerge within the concept. The following are some important trends of Omnichannel retail that hold promise in 2019:
Customers interact with multiple devices during the day. As a result, the Omnichannel concept must also be Omni-device. Customers may begin a purchase on a smartphone, complete payment on laptop and ultimately take delivery at an offline purchase point. Omnichannel retailing needs to provide a consistent experience to customers across all devices. This includes responsive websites, congruent themes and seamless information exchange.
Personalizing The Buyer’s Journey With Tech
This is an extremely important area of Omnichannel retail. By providing customers with timely personalized recommendations, reminders and offers, businesses can make the retail process more enticing.
Customer Service 24/7
Consumers today expect around the clock service. While a brick-and-mortar store can seldom provide this, an online channel offers the advantage of being always available to consumers; by coupling this advantage with impeccable customer service and prompt response times, businesses can reap dividends over those not utilizing these concepts.
Whether online or offline, checkouts remain one of the most time-consuming aspects of retail. Omnichannel strategies aim to simplify the process by using mobile POS (point-of-sale) terminals to speed up the offline retail experience. Even online, single page checkouts are gaining prominence, together with providing multiple payment options to consumers.
As consumer expectations continue to rise, the retail process needs to align itself with consumer demands and ensure efficient and rapid fulfillment of purchases according to the customer’s preferred mode of shopping. This involves integrating a centralized inventory control system that appropriately reflects across all channels, thus removing potential discrepancies in the system.
Omnichannel Retailing Examples
Let us now look into some real-world implementations of Omnichannel retailing and understand how they function:
Starbucks is widely considered as having one of the most effective implementations of Omnichannel retail. Whether it’s paying with a Starbucks card, accumulating reward points or finding nearby stores on the official app, the Starbucks experience promises to be an effortless one for patrons. This is what Omnichannel is all about.
Sephora is yet another brand which has taken the Omnichannel approach to the next level. Not only does their Beauty Insiders Program create greater engagement, patrons can also use their phone app or desktop site to view their personal preferences, purchases and access multiple other utilities.
Fashion brand Oasis gives prime importance to customer experience in its Omnichannel strategy. Oasis maintains stellar service across all its retail channels, from online to mobile and brick-and-mortar. This allows it to garner steady customers who come back for more each time.
Future of Omnichannel Retailing
It is expected that the consumer of tomorrow (as well as today) will demand deeper connections with the brands they shop with. Omnichannel retailing holds the promise of providing consumers with flawless shopping experiences that exactly meet their varied needs. Companies which adopt Omnichannel retail today stand to gain competitive advantage and remain relevant for future generations of consumers who expect nothing less than perfection.
Image by Megan Rexazin